State postpones launch of Malibu Lagoon restoration project
This post has been updated. See the note below for details.
A California State Parks official said Friday that the agency would postpone the start of its Malibu Lagoon restoration project until Monday, partly to avoid interfering with a surfing benefit event Saturday at Surfrider Beach.
Craig Sap, district superintendent for the agency's Angeles district, said the state agreed to delay the launch at the request of Malibu Councilman Skylar Peak, a surfer who plans to participate in the 12th annual Pat Notaro Day charity event, which will raise money for children with autism.
Opponents of the restoration plan contended that the delay was prompted by concerns about the state's plan to drain the lagoon and treat contaminated water.
"We found the dewatering plan was flawed," said Andy Lyons, a surfer who joined about 30 other protesters at the lagoon Friday morning. "They've abandoned that plan now in the eleventh hour and ... are making a new plan."
Sap said the contractor has indeed presented a different drainage plan than the one previously envisioned. The contractor's plan is being reviewed by an independent licensed engineer. "The dewatering plan is within the parameters of the initial permit," he said, adding that changes were made necessary by "current site conditions, including tides."
[Updated, 12:12 p.m. June 1: It remains to be seen whether State Parks' existing permit will be adequate once a new drainage plan is submitted, said an official with the regional water board.
"As soon as we see the new dewatering plan, the regional water board can determine if the existing permit is appropriate or if a new permit will be required," said Samuel Unger, executive officer of the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Los Angeles region.]
The state plan calls for workers to drain 12 acres of the wetland and scoop out more than 1,000 truckloads of sediment. The banks will be reshaped and new vegetation planted, correcting a 1983 project that carved a restored wetland out of an estuary that had been filled with dirt to build baseball diamonds.
Backers say the four-month project will create a viable ecosystem with water flowing in and out again, support more plants, birds and fish and retain the world-famed Surfrider surfing break. An alliance of surfers, environmental activists and Malibu celebrities say the project would destroy the lagoon and flatten waves.
Opponents of the restoration plan hoisted signs at the lagoon Friday morning and acknowledged the supportive honks of passing motorists. Three representatives of the Surfrider Foundation were on hand to voice their support for the state's plan.
Under their permit, state contractors could have begun fencing off the lagoon on Friday before starting the job of draining the salt marsh and reshaping its shores and channels.
Andy Lyon, a surfer who opposes the state's plan, said the delay was prompted by the recognition that the state's strategy of draining the lagoon and treating the tainted water wouldn't work.
"They are now changing the whole plan around, and nobody gets to see this," he said.
Sap disputed that, saying the revised plan would be made public once the engineer determined that it was adequate.
Project opponents suffered a setback last week when a state appeals court denied their petition to halt the restoration. But they have vowed to stand in the path of oncoming bulldozers.
-- Martha Groves
Photo: Mati Waiya, a Chumash ceremonial elder, performs a purification, cleansing and blessing ceremony Friday on the sand where the Malibu Lagoon reaches the Pacific Ocean. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times